A Simplified Enterprise Architecture Framework

An Enterprise Architecture Framework is an approach to aligning the multi-million (or billion) dollar investments that all large organizations (public and private) have made, and are still making in information technology, with the mission of the organization. An organization’s mission begins with its vision. A vision is described by David Hay, as a desired future state of the enterprise without regard to how it is to be achieved.[i]  Its vision is the synthesis of the ends that an enterprise sets out to accomplish and its mission is the means by which it plans to accomplish this vision. This can only be done successfully with an approach that emphasizes collaboration, planning, monitoring, analysis and action.

Business plans include all the ends the enterprise sets out to accomplish and all the means by which it plans to accomplish them. These include such objectives as goals to be met, opportunities to pursue, problems to solve, constituencies to service, expectations to satisfy, and how to increase the value of the company’s equity. Often these objectives are not initially stated in a way that can be measured. It is the mission of Enterprise Architecture to organize, structure and ultimately measure these objectives.

It is when the objectives of the mission are set in the environment in which an organization operates, including such factors as business locations, technologies deployed, functions performed, competitor and partner analyses, competencies, industry trends, and institutional knowledge that we begin to see the need for organizing, structuring and measuring the factors that influence the strategy of the enterprise in pursuing its mission.

But the most carefully crafted strategy is no more than words without the business processes and functional organization structure to carry it out. The more abstract aspects of the strategy need to be made actionable through less abstract processes and patterns of behavior that can actually be performed, and measured. To this end then competitors, partners, providers, regulators, customers, human resources and even the enterprise itself become the parties that are of interest to the enterprise. Do these factors make sense in the context of the mission? These are the factors that perform, constraint and regulate the carrying out of the mission. In short parties become the “Who” aspect of the enterprise.

In addition to the parties whose behavior influences the pursuit of the mission, all enterprises produce something they hope to be able to exchange for value with other parties. This, of course, is the enterprise’s product. In general an enterprise’s product takes the form of either goods, services, or some combination of the two to form more complex compound products. While most of the parties with whom an enterprise engages are outside of the direct control of the enterprise, the definition and pricing of products is typically under tight enterprise control.[ii] This is so as long as there is a clear value proposition for the product. In this modern post-virtual world an enterprise’s challenge is often to clearly define just what its products are and what its unique value proposition is. In many ways the product is the enterprise. Products become the “What” aspect of the enterprise.

Parties and products are not just naturally associated with one another. There has to occur some activity between the parties with the ultimate intent of producing, assessing or exchanging products between them. Each party must perceive there to be more value to themselves in the product they receive than the value of the product they give up in the production, assessment or exchange. Almost always one of the products given in an exchange is money, in the form of price or compensation.

These exchanges are the life blood of any enterprise. It is how the enterprise accumulates capital to enable it to grow, it is typically how “success” is measured, and at the most fundamental level it is how the enterprise pays its bills and remains intact and the master of its own destiny. Exchanges, then become the “How” aspect of the enterprise. These exchanges and the processes that implement them are how an enterprise accomplishes its mission.

With the virtualization and digitalization of so many traditional channels it is tempting to think that “location no longer matters”. I feel this would be a mistake however. Most of the parties an enterprise deals with, especially customers, still live in the “real world” or at least their virtualization can be resolved to real physical human beings and organizations of human beings who typically need or use a real address somewhere on earth. This is especially true of the customers you hope to reach (or constituencies you hope to serve), even if the address you associate with them is itself virtual like a “Facebook” or professional community or an e-commerce website. And, of course, the enterprise itself is located somewhere. These locations, and the addresses that represent them become the “Where” aspect of the enterprise.

We have all heard the cliché that “time is money” or the old dictum “tempus fugit”. For better or worse we live in a world delimited by time. Time usually takes two forms, moments in time, that is “events”, and durations, how long something takes. This time bounding defines the “When” aspect of the enterprise. Since another cliché, “time is money” almost always proves to be true, the time aspect of an enterprise can have a profound effect of its ability to sustainably accomplish its mission.

The final aspect of the enterprise concerns motivation and is quite often the most difficult to measure and to recognize its effect on the performance of an enterprise. The motivation aspect addresses the question of why certain courses of action are chosen or should be chosen, why certain types of persons and organizations are important, why certain products should be more heavily invested in and what corrective actions need to be taken for others, why certain events are important, and why some locations are preferred over others. Motivational factors are typically measured by inference, based on our assumption that because certain motivators were in place when an action took place that the motivators influenced that action. To an extent accepting the effect of this influence is an issue of convention. Never the less, no one can argue against the real changes in behavior brought about by strategically placed incentives, both positive and negative. Nor can we overlook the motivation of measurement itself, as has been said “what gets measured gets done”, which makes it imperative to measure the right things.[iii] Motivators become the “Why” aspect of an enterprise, and they can vary from the altruistic to the purely financial.

Enterprise Architecture has become a lot more visible and has received a lot of coverage in the IT press over the past five to ten years. This is at least in part due to the U.S. government’s passage of the Clinger Cohen Act back in 1996, and also to a growing need for organizations in both the public and private sectors to link together two of the most predominant initiatives within their operations: the strategic direction of the business and the increasing investment in information technology. The idea is to align the technology investment with the strategic direction. While there are many different approaches to doing this they almost all fall under the heading of Enterprise Architecture in one way or another. This gradual recognition of Enterprise Architecture has led to an increase in methods to implement it. Some of these ideas go way back to the 1980’s and others are purely 21st century phenomena.

Many of the approaches to Enterprise Architecture require tremendous dedication and effort to understand and implement. What I have attempted to show in this brief article is that there is an approach that builds on what many people already know . It essentially ties together the strategy and business processes of the Business Architecture with the computer based applications and infrastructure of the Technical Architecture. This linkage, especially where business process objectives are directly and logically realized in computer applications forms the traceability needed to verify the entire end-to-end Enterprise Architecture, from the top of the value chain in vision and mission through to the most physical aspects of the value chain in the components of the software and hardware infrastructure required to automate its implementation.

 


[i] Data Model Patterns, A Metadata Map, David Hay, 2006.

[ii] With knowledge work continuing to become more and more critical to successful value creation for both individuals and organizations it seems fair to assume that the era of the “loyal” employee will continue to recede further into the past.

[iii] A topic for another article, and my apologies to the former CEO of GE often credited for this quote.

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2 Responses to “A Simplified Enterprise Architecture Framework”

  1. Investing Says:

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this topic to be really one thing which I
    believe I would by no means understand. It seems too complex and very
    extensive for me. I’m taking a look ahead to your next submit, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

  2. Wayne Kurtz Says:

    Thanks for your comment. EA was “invented” a number of years ago as a “catch all” tag to label what at the time was a newer approach to explaining the behavior of complex organizations. The idea was if you understood an organization architecturally you might be able to find areas that could be “improved” and thus opportunities to make the organization perform better vis-s-vis its competitors. I don’t know if that actually worked, but a whole “industry” grew out of that, as usually happens when an idea catches on. It takes on a self-perpetuating life of its own. ,

    If you think about EA in that way you can see that its competitive advantage to an organization can only last until its competitors catch on and start doing it as well, which usually only happens after folks start writing about it, and start describing EA inspired actions that they (and others) have taken. Eventually the advantage neutralizes and organizations have to find other ways to stay “a step ahead of the competition”. I think that is what is happening today.

    Another way to look at EA is as a means of understanding the “motivations” of an organization (Zachman’s sixth column). One rationale for this view is that it might give you (personally) a competitive advantage within your organization and enhance your potential personal competitive value.

    With all their people, processes and technology modern organizations are complex, but I think that 6BI and EA are frameworks for understanding them, at least at a level that can help a person predict, survive and maybe even prosper in modern work life.

    _Wayne

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